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The Lost Prince Frances Hodgson Burnett

X The Rat-and Samavia

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Lazarus was waiting for him in the passage. The Rat held back a little.

``Perhaps they'd rather not eat their breakfast with me,'' he hesitated. ``I'm not--I'm not the kind they are. I could swallow the coffee out here and carry the bread away with me. And you could thank him for me. I'd want him to know I thanked him.''

Lazarus also had a steady eye. The Rat realized that he was looking him over as if he were summing him up.

``You may not be the kind they are, but you may be of a kind the Master sees good in. If he did not see something, he would not ask you to sit at his table. You are to come with me.''

The Squad had seen good in The Rat, but no one else had. Policemen had moved him on whenever they set eyes on him, the wretched women of the slums had regarded him as they regarded his darting, thieving namesake; loafing or busy men had seen in him a young nuisance to be kicked or pushed out of the way. The Squad had not called ``good'' what they saw in him. They would have yelled with laughter if they had heard any one else call it so. ``Goodness'' was not considered an attraction in their world.

The Rat grinned a little and wondered what was meant, as he followed Lazarus into the back sitting-room.

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It was as dingy and gloomy as it had looked the night before, but by the daylight The Rat saw how rigidly neat it was, how well swept and free from any speck of dust, how the poor windows had been cleaned and polished, and how everything was set in order. The coarse linen cloth on the table was fresh and spotless, so was the cheap crockery, the spoons shone with brightness.

Loristan was standing on the hearth and Marco was near him. They were waiting for their vagabond guest as if he had been a gentleman.

The Rat hesitated and shuffled at the door for a moment, and then it suddenly occurred to him to stand as straight as he could and salute. When he found himself in the presence of Loristan, he felt as if he ought to do something, but he did not know what.

Loristan's recognition of his gesture and his expression as he moved forward lifted from The Rat's shoulders a load which he himself had not known lay there. Somehow he felt as if something new had happened to him, as if he were not mere ``vermin,'' after all, as if he need not be on the defensive--even as if he need not feel so much in the dark, and like a thing there was no place in the world for. The mere straight and far-seeing look of this man's eyes seemed to make a place somewhere for what he looked at. And yet what he said was quite simple.

``This is well,'' he said. ``You have rested. We will have some food, and then we will talk together.'' He made a slight gesture in the direction of the chair at the right hand of his own place.

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The Lost Prince
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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